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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

208                           LIFE OF
hiding its pyramidical form. Through the heath dis-
trict Humboldt ascended into the region of ferns,
where the root of one very plentiful kind serves as
food to the inhabitants of Palma and Zoniera ; then
he came to a wood of juniper and fir trees, and at last
to a plain, like a large green sea, covered with ferns,
and which it took the travellers two hours and a half
to cross. In addition to this they suffered from the
very great heat, which was reflected from the soil.
The plain, formed of pumice-stone, is covered with
the beautiful, odorous, flowering Retema plant,
sometimes nine feet high, with which the passing-
hunters decoratethemselves, and which serves the goats
of the peak as nourishment. These goats live here
wild, have a dark brown skin, and are eaten as a
delicacy. As soon as Humboldt arrived on this
pumice-stone plain, he saw that the character of the
landscape, which had been so fertile hitherto, was
entirely changed ; at every step he came upon im-
mense volcanic productions; everything annoxinced a
quiet, deep solitude of a deserted district, which
extended over ten square miles of desolation. From
here the island seemed like a colossal heap "of burnt
matter, round which the vegetable world had formed
a small border. ThroLigh narrow and deep clefts,
hollowed out by the former mountain-streams of
olden times, Humboldt came to a mountain level, El
monton de Frigo, and from there, at a height of 9312
feet, to a station, Estancia de los Inglesos, where he
and his companions had to pass the first night.
Huinboldt's dwelling for the night was a cavern,
which protected him from wind and weather ; the
guides lighted a fire of dried branches, and lay down,
without tents or cloaks, upon a heap of burnt stones,
where the fire, smoke, and wind, were very trouble-
some. They tried to make a screen of handkerchiefs
tied together, but the-fire caught and consumed a por-
tion of it before the travellers perceived it. Hum-
boldt had never passed a night at such an elevation
above the sea, and did not then imagine that be would